K-12 districts across the country still face an uncertain future for in-person education this year, and the race is on to continue improving hybrid learning options for students. Monitoring student engagement and progress is a consistent challenge for teachers and school districts, but data analytics tools such as CatchOn can help.

Jena Draper founded CatchOn in 2016 to give school administrations a way to monitor the usage and effectiveness of their online app investments. “We wanted to bridge the gap and provide districts with the data required to make informed choices about the apps and digital resources they’re purchasing and adopting,” Draper says.

Insight into student engagement and data privacy

CatchOn uses a software agent to monitor app usage and access on all school-owned devices. The service works whether students are in the school building or learning remotely. And when CatchOn is utilized with Chrome OS, it also collects logs of how much time students are spending in each app. “It’s a tool for measuring student engagement and seeing which apps are trending across your district,” says Monica Cougan, manager of strategic relationships and initiatives at CatchOn. “You can customize dashboards to quickly see which apps are getting used, giving you insight into your investments.”

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The CatchOn service also helps districts manage data privacy by highlighting app usage on built-in privacy dashboards. In 2021, the company partnered with IMS Global Learning Consortium and Student Data Privacy Consortium to badge apps that meet the organizations’ data privacy standards. Districts can monitor these badges and use them to create lists of approved and unapproved apps to share with parents and students. This serves as a quick way to vet apps, bring credibility to software decision-making and ensure compliance with state-level data privacy laws. And because apps can update their privacy statements at any time, CatchOn continually monitors these policies and notifies districts of any changes.

How districts are using CatchOn

Monitoring app usage can reveal insights about student engagement and help school leaders evaluate their purchasing decisions. “Almost all districts say they use CatchOn to look at purchasing decisions, evaluate their usage and decide which apps to keep and which to get rid of,” says Cougan. “We’ve had some situations where CTOs ran reports and superintendents saw them and said, ‘That’s really interesting. I’d like to know why that app is being used so much and what the instruction looks like.'” This data can start productive conversations within school districts, allowing IT, curriculum and administrative teams to discuss what’s working and what’s not.

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Many districts are using CatchOn in other creative ways. For example, some districts that are looking to switch videoconferencing platforms begin by pulling CatchOn reports for each school to see who’s already using which platform. IT leaders can share this data with teachers and administrators to help with change management — highlighting which programs are still being used and which ones they want to phase out.

If a district experiences a security breach, an IT administrator could verbally ask teachers which apps they’re using that could have contributed, but a CatchOn report provides more accurate and in-depth information about the source of vulnerability. Usage reports also help districts prove their state-level privacy compliance with hard evidence.

Why oversight is essential

In K-12 education environments that include the possibility of remote and hybrid learning, districts need the oversight to ensure that students are actively using their learning technology. Having access to app usage data and privacy information allows districts to get tangible feedback on their investments and evaluate which apps teachers should be promoting.

“Districts have made significant financial investments to put devices into students’ hands,” says Kylie McGee, senior director of client services and marketing at CatchOn. “CatchOn can really help to justify those investments by quickly and easily giving them a full picture of how each device is being used.”

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Jessica Leigh Brown

Jessica Leigh Brown is a freelance writer and former high school English teacher who covers the intersection of technology and education. Over the past decade, her work has appeared in EdSurge Higher Ed, Education Dive, EdTech Magazine, University Business, and District Administration.

View more posts by Jessica Leigh Brown